The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1 by Caroline Carlson

Book: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1 by Caroline Carlson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Caroline Carlson
her off the plank and call the next applicant in.” Some of the pirates chortled approvingly.
    Jasper led Hilary inside the ramshackle house, which smelled not unpleasantly of seaweed and leather. The front door opened directly into what Hilary guessed was a sitting room, although it did not look at all like any other sitting room she’d ever seen. Instead of chairs or velvet couches, a few well-worn rope hammocks hung from hooks drilled into the rafters. Standing in for a table was an old wooden box that looked suspiciously like a treasure chest. The room’s only decoration was a gleaming wire cage containing a small bright-green bird. The bird croaked grumpily when it saw Hilary.
    â€œWelcome to my salon,” said Jasper. “Can I get you anything? Grog?”
    â€œNo, thank you.” Grog at ten o’clock in the morning—Miss Greyson would have been horrified.
    â€œJust for me, then.” Jasper picked up a mug and took a long sip. “Please take a seat, any seat.”
    Hilary balanced herself in the hammock farthest away from the bird. “I thought your advertisement said parrots weren’t allowed.”
    â€œAh, but Fitzwilliam here is a budgerigar. That’s a very special kind of parrot, and a parrot for which I make exceptions.” Jasper removed his hat and started to untie his mask. “Besides, Fitzwilliam himself insisted on the no-parrot rule. He simply can’t abide competition.” He laid his hat and mask on the floor and looked up at Hilary. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, by the way. And I must apologize—when last we met, I’m afraid I was in a bit of a hurry.”
    Hilary nearly fell out of her hammock. There, across from her, sat Mr. Smith. He looked quite different without the tailcoat, but now that his mask no longer hid half his face, there could be no mistaking it: he was the very same elegant gentleman she’d met on the train.
    â€œI’m sorry, Mr. Smith,” she said, once she’d caught her breath. “I didn’t recognize you.”
    â€œThat’s the whole idea behind a disguise,” said Jasper. “The name was a disguise, too, I’m afraid. I’m really Jasper Fletcher.”
    â€œAnd you’re really a pirate?”
    â€œNaturally.” Jasper grinned, flipped a gold coin out of his hand, and caught it again. “Even pirates must travel by train every so often, I’m sorry to say.”
    Of course. No wonder he’d been wandering the train corridors looking for magic to steal—and no wonder he’d dashed away when the queen’s inspectors had arrived. Being unscrupulous was all part of his profession.
    â€œNow,” said Jasper, “I believe it’s my turn to ask a question. Who are you?”
    â€œI’m Hilary,” said Hilary. Should she have given herself some sort of fancy pirate nickname? The way things had gone for Cannonball Jack, it was probably safest to keep things simple.
    Jasper pulled out a notepad and started scribbling. “And do you have a last name, Hilary?”
    Hilary opened her mouth, then closed it again. The navy and the pirate league were not on good terms, and Jasper Fletcher could hardly be expected to hire the admiral’s daughter for his crew. He might be more inclined to take her hostage, and she would almost prefer Miss Pimm’s to that.
    â€œSmith,” she said. “My last name is Smith.”
    Jasper smiled. “Very well; that’s a game I can appreciate.” He looked up. “Ah, here’s my first mate. Perhaps he’d like to ask you some questions as well. Charlie, come and join us.”
    The boy from the train hesitated in the doorway. He wore torn-up work clothes splattered with paint, and he held a half-eaten cinnamon bun in one hand. “That’s that finishing-school girl,” he said, pointing the cinnamon bun at Hilary. “What’s she doing

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